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Predicting the USMNT’s roster for their summer friendlies

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Who will play against France, Bolivia, and Ireland?

Soccer: 2018 World Cup Qualifier-Panama at USA Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The USMNT has three upcoming friendlies on the schedule, taking on Bolivia (May 28th), Ireland (June 2nd), and France (June 9th). While it is impossible to accurately guess whom Dave Sarachan is going to name to the roster, it’s always fun to make some predictions and see if they happen.

Personally, I think the roster is going to lean younger and have players with less experience than a traditional “strongest group”, although probably not as much as many fans desire. Sarachan stated that “it is a no-brainer to allow these matches to be served by a lot of young guys.”

Despite this claim, it’s still going to be a “safe” roster with largely known players and there won’t be anyone too unexpected. Those hoping for Timothy Tillman’s or Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu’s inclusion will be sorely disappointed.

Here’s who I believe will make the roster. It’s a 23-player list (as if they were going to the World Cup, but they’re not), but it’s possible it will be comprised of anywhere from 20 to 28 players and maybe even a split-squad.

GOALKEEPERS (3)

Zack Steffen, Columbus Crew; Alex Bono, Toronto FC; Bill Hamid, Midtylland

Will there be a change at goalkeeper before the next Gold Cup or will some combination of Tim Howard and Brad Guzan continue to hold down the role? So far, none of the potential heirs have made a demonstrative claim on the position, but they’re going to receive plenty of chances.

Zack Steffen has stood out the most since moving to MLS from Freiburg and has already earned a few caps. Alex Bono has yet to make an appearance with the national team, but has been impressing with Toronto FC and is receiving some interest from Europe. Bill Hamid has struggled to break through in Denmark, but a lack of playing time hasn’t prevented players from being included in past camps.

Other possible inclusions: Cody Cropper, Jesse Gonzalez, Sean Johnson, Ethan Horvath

DEFENDERS (8)

John Brooks, Wolfsburg; Eric Lichaj, Nottingham Forest; DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle; Tim Ream, Fulham; Matt Miazga, Vitesse; Shaq Moore, Levante; Cameron Carter-Vickers, Ipswich; Antonee Robinson, Bolton Wanderers

Some weeks, the future USMNT back line generates feelings of confidence and hope; other weeks, perusing the list causes dread. Right now, there is reason for optimism.

The center back group is enjoying a decent run of form at the club level. Matt Miazga continues to rack up starts and various accolades in the Eredivisie. Cameron Carter-Vickers, still only 20, has been doing well on loan with Ipswich. Tim Ream – who would be in his mid-30s by the next World Cup and is an elder statesman among this group – continues his push for a return to the Premier League.

John Brooks would normally be an automatic inclusion and recently made his long awaited return to Wolfsburg’s lineup after ongoing injury struggles. However, it’s possible that Sarachan will opt to let him rest and regain form before throwing him into meaningless friendlies. Brooks is a known entity and his abilities are proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. He really has nothing to gain from playing.

My prediction is that New York Red Bulls center back Tim Parker will be selected in his place. The towering, physically imposing 25-year old has yet to earn a cap, but has been included in a few camps. He’s been having a stellar season in MLS and has thrived putting out fires at the back of the high press, snuffing out counter-attacks and fielding opposition long balls with ease.

As for the fullbacks, DeAndre Yedlin has a lockdown on call-ups for the next eight years and the only reason he won’t be joining the national team for the next three matches is if he wants a break following the club season. Shaq Moore has been working his way up the Spanish football ladder and has enjoyed sporadic playing time with Levante in the Tercera. Antonee Robinson made 30 Championship appearances with Bolton (that seems pretty good, I’m not going to pretend to have watched him play more than a couple of those matches). Eric Lichaj is another older inclusion, but it’s good to have a little bit of experience in the roster, especially if the players are on the “right” side of 30.

Other possible inclusions: Jorge Villafaña, Walker Zimmerman, Justen Glad, Brandon Vincent, Steve Birnbaum, Aaron Long, Matt Hedges, Greg Garza

MIDFIELDERS (8)

Kenny Saief, Anderlecht; Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew; Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders; Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund; Darlington Nagbe, Atlanta United; Weston McKennie, Schalke; Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls; Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas

If the defensive platoon is reason for occasional optimism, then the midfielders should create unbridled enthusiasm within the hearts and minds of every national team fan. Darlington Nagbe, Tyler Adams, Wil Trapp, and Christian Roldan are all thriving with their respective MLS clubs. Nagbe’s performances have been particularly notable, as it appears he’s finally found the perfect club and manager for his fluid movement and subtle yet essential passes. Kellyn Acosta recently made his 2018 debut for FC Dallas after dealing with an injury layoff.

Kenny Saief has spent a productive half-season on loan with Anderlecht after missing roughly four months in the fall with injury issues. Weston McKennie continues to bounce back from injury issues to earn playing time with Schalke. Oh, and Christian Pulisic continues to exist and will be with the squad.

The group provides a healthy mix of defensive mettle, creativity, technical ability, and speed that should delight fans and frustrate opponents.

Other possible inclusions: Keaton Parks, Marky Delgado, Kekuta Manneh, Paul Arriola, Michael Bradley, Joe Corona

ATTACKERS (4)

Bobby Wood, Hamburg; Dom Dwyer, Orlando City; Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen; Tim Weah, Paris Saint-Germain

One never knows who will be selected from the American striker pool. Sometimes it will be someone drastically out of form, but is paid the mouth service of “good fit” or “fills a need”. Other times it will be a player who produced in the past, but his inclusion seemingly keeps out players who either show greater potential or can’t stop scoring at the club level.

Bobby Wood has struggled all season with relegation-threatened Hamburg, but has recently shown signs of rediscovering his scoring touch. Dom Dwyer continues to score consistently for Orlando City, but there will always be some vague notion that he’s not good enough for the national team (although one can argue he’s proved it with two goals in four appearances and his notable absence during the doomed qualifying run).

On the other end of that spectrum is the 18-year old Weah who has two Ligue 1 appearances with PSG and made his senior team debut in March’s friendly against Paraguay. He, like many before him, appears destined for stardom, so why not call him in and give him a few more reps?

Sarachan already told The Washington Post that he plans to call in Josh Sargent, despite the young striker not even being eligible to appear for his club until August. I’m sure American fans won’t begrudge his inclusion too much.

As for Jozy Altidore, the 6’1” striker was recently ruled out for the next four-to-six weeks following a “successful surgery to remove bone fragments from his foot”. So we’ll hold off on debating the merits of his inclusion until the 2019 Gold Cup.

Other possible inclusions: Gyasi Zardes, Brooks Lennon, C.J. Sapong, Juan Agudelo, Christian Ramirez, Andrija Novakovich, Rubio Rubin